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Alan Michael Sugar a man who needs no introduction

Known as Lord Sugar, he is among the leading British businesspersons around the world. While his success as an entrepreneur may surprise many, it shouldn’t; from an early age, he showed the aptitude to be a highly shrewd and tactful businessman and has proven that early potential to become unqualifiedly successful. He was knighted at the turn of the millennium for his various achievements in business and contributions to the business world.

From selling aerials out of a van to the House of Lords

Alan Michael Sugar is a man who needs no introduction. He has created and purchased many leading corporations over the years, particularly Amstrad.

Introduction and Early Life

He was born on 24th March, in 1947. His family, at that time, lived in Hackney in East London. He is the youngest of four siblings. His family’s financial condition at that time was not stable. His father, Nathan, was a tailor. It is due to the financial hardships he faced in his early life that Sugar decided to seek ways to earn money. While still in school, he found a job with a greengrocer, which gave him some pocket money. His family was Jewish, and though proud of his heritage, he is an atheist.

Alan Sugar married Ann Simons on 28th April, 1968. The couple has been together since, approaching 50 years of marriage next year, later going on to have two sons and a daughter. It was in the same year of his marriage to Ann that Sugar started Amstrad, the company that made him a wealthy businessman.

Alan Sugar received his early education from the Northwood Primary School and then at the Brooke House Secondary School. At that time, he had curly hair which he kept lengthy. This earned him the nickname ‘Mop Head’, a nickname that has stuck to this day. At age 16, he dropped out of school and found a job with the Ministry of Education. He worked there for some time as a statistician, saving money with the goal of setting up his own business down the line, which he did.

He purchased a van for £50 and spent a further £8 on insuring it. At that point, he had £100 in savings, the entirety of which he spent on his business. Using the van, he started selling aerials initially, adding more electronic goods to his inventory. His business and financial skills came to the fore at age 16, when he started making more money than his father.

Amstrad

It was in 1968 that Sugar founded Amstrad. The name of the company comes from his initials combined with Trading. Amstrad Stride AlleyInitially, he set up the company with a view to importing and exporting goods, and with interests in wholesaling. However, some time down the line, he changed direction and from then on, Amstrad started specialising in consumer electronics, which led to them also starting to manufacture their own products in 1970. Sugar again showed his genius when he was able to reduce the cost of production by incorporating injection moulding plastics.

This was in direct opposition to their competitors, who, at that time, were using vacuum forming as part of their production processes. At that time, Amstrad was producing hi-fi turntable covers. Soon after, they expanded their repertoire and started manufacturing tuners and audio amplifiers. The company went public in 1980, gaining a listing on the LSE. Over the course of the 1980s, the company continued increasing its profits year on year, and its market value doubled with each passing year.

In 1984, Sugar realised the potential of the growing market for home computers and as a result, Amstrad ventured into the niche, creating an 8-bit computer, titled the CPC 464. The machine was considered inferior to other computers of that era, but despite the high competition, managed to sell 3 million units. The growth of the company under Sugar continued uninterrupted, reaching a point where it was valued at over a billion pounds. However, the company hit a low during the 90s, where a number of ventures initiated by them failed.

Sugar continued leading the company and guided it out of the doldrums, launching a new period of success. In 2007, Sugar sold the company to BSkyB for £125m. The next year, he decided to devote his attention to other business areas and stepped down as the chairman of the company.

Amsair

Amsair - Stride AlleyIn 1993, Lord Sugar founded the Amsair Executive Aviation. The company focuses primarily on providing aviation services to businesses and private customers. Daniel Patrick, the son of Lord Sugar, operates the business today, which owns a fleet of Cessnas along with one Embracer Legacy 650.

Amsprop

Amsprop is a property company based in London. A vast majority of the real estate controlled by the company is in Mayfair and in other parts of the city. Amsprop is the largest contributor to Lord Sugar’s fortune today, which is valued at around £800 million, though there are some conflicting reports about that number. Amsprop, like Amsair, is operated by Daniel. Amsprop was also featured on The Apprentice; the winner of the 2007 series of the show, Simon Ambrose, got the chance to work with Lord Sugar at Amsprop. He worked there till 2010, when it was reported that he planned to set up a business of his own.

Viglen

Viglen is a well-known company, providing products and services in the IT domain to a range of industries. The company was Viglen Stride Alleyoriginally founded in 1975. In 1994, Amstrad completed the purchase of Viglen. Lord Sugar was actively involved with the company till 2009, when he stepped down. Having sold Amstrad in 2007, Viglen remains the sole IT related company owned by Lord Sugar today.

Tottenham Hotspurs

Lord Sugar’s purchase of the Tottenham Hotspurs football club is the most storied of all his business ventures. He partook in a bidding war with Robert Maxwell. Eventually, Lord Sugar brought Terry Venables on board and managed to purchase the club. At that time, the club was struggling financially and needed an injection of cash on an urgent basis. The purchase of the club by Lord Sugar helped ease some of the burden. Lord Sugar took the position of chairman as the major stakeholder in ownership of the club.

Being the consummate businessman he is, Lord Sugar instilled a sense of efficiency throughout the football club. In fact, it is widely stated that his business-first approach affected the performance of the team. During his tenure as chairman, the team actually failed to perform well on the pitch, finishing in mid-table for a number of seasons. They only managed to win one trophy, the League Cup, in 1999. He encountered numerous controversies during his time with Tottenham.

In 1992, Sky tabled a bid for the TV rights to the Premier League. Lord Sugar was the only chairman among the chairmen of the leading clubs who voted in favour of Sky over ITV. After the 1994 World Cup, he famously invested in three leading football stars, none of whom managed to lift the performance of his team. He also got into controversy over the sacking of Terry Venables. Eventually, in 2001, he sold around a quarter of his take in the club and in 2007, sold the remaining shares, to end his association with the club. In his own words, he did not find the experience of owning Tottenham pleasant.

The Apprentice

Among the major reasons for Lord Sugar’s popularity in popular culture, as compared to other business magnates from the UK, is his appearance on The Apprentice. Since the first season of the show, which was shot way back in 2005, Lord Sugar has been a constant presence on the show, acting as mentor to the contestants of the show. Incidentally, the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, also served as mentor on the American version of the series for a number of years.

The Apprentice Stride AlleyThe Apprentice is a popular TV program, aired on BBC. The idea for creating a British version of the show originated in 2004, when BBC won the rights to it in a fierce bidding war against Channel 4. The show is often referred to as the ‘Job interview from hell’, reflecting the pressure and rigor the contestants have to go through to be selected for the prize. In fact, for the first six series, the winner got the chance to work at Amstrad, or any other of the companies owned by Sugar, as his apprentice. The contestant who won the show was given a six-figure salary as well.

However, in 2007, as mentioned above, BSkyB purchased Amstrad and subsequently, Lord Sugar stepped down from his position on the board. As a result of this change, the prize for The Apprentice also had to be changed. Currently, the winner of the show receives an investment of a quarter of a million pounds in the business that he/she has created. Lord Sugar receives a 50% stake in the business and is tasked with helping his apprentice take the business to the next level.

The interesting thing about the show is that even though Lord Sugar has appeared on it in all 12 series, he wasn’t the original choice for the role. As a matter of fact, Michael O’Leary, Philip Green, and Felix Dennis were all offered the opportunity but each of them turned down. There was some speculation about whether or not Lord Sugar would be able to continue as the head of the show, but he has committed to it full-time, balancing the schedule for the show with his various other business commitments.

Lord Sugar acts as the main mentor for the candidates and is tasked with selecting the contestants who enter the show and also the winner. He is a vital part of the boardroom and is considered the main part of the show. In addition to his main role, he is tasked with deciding the tasks that the candidates will have to perform. He handles the logistics for the tasks as well in addition to providing briefings to each candidate. In some cases, he offers the briefing through a recorded message, though he also gives it in person from time to time.

He has also shown active involvement to get a better idea of the performance of the contestants. In fact, for some tasks, he himself is present at the location. The main purpose of his presence is to view the way in which the contestants ‘pitch’. Once the tasks are completed, he is provided feedback by the other mentors and he makes decisions based on that. He has the right to veto any decision. This includes retracting a reward offered to a team. He also has the final say on the contestants that will be present for the final boardroom. In other words, he is the ‘hiring and firing’ authority on the show.

Initially, his ownership of Amstrad was a major running theme of the show. This was also related to the fact that the winner of the show got the chance to work for the company directly under Lord Sugar. He was also referred to as Sir Alan, having received his knighthood in 2000. After his sale of Amstrad, he is introduced in the show as controlling a vast business empire. He is also now called Lord Sugar, instead of Sir, after he received neutral appointment from the Queen.

Over time, the show also led to the creation of a companion discussion show. Lord Sugar is also a constant presence on the You’re Hired segment, appearing with the winner and staying there for the duration of the interview.

There can be no denying that Lord Sugar is a shrewd businessman; he’s taken his empire from selling aerials out of the back of a van to owning and developing numerous multi-million pound businesses, and is now a popular personality, owing to the success of the Apprentice and his long-standing Twitter feuds with Piers Morgan.